When hunting for homes, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed sometimes. One house might be absolutely perfect but a 20-minute drive to the closest grocery store, while another has all of its bedrooms on the second floor.
While all of these considerations will certainly be thought about and taken into account when you’re looking at a home, one thing you might not always consider with as much importance as it requires is your commute time.
Surveys show that in the 50 largest U.S. cities, commute times have been steadily growing since 2009 with no sign that they’ll be slowing down anytime soon. Also, the U.S. Census Bureau shows that almost 11 million people drive at least an hour to work each way!
The reason behind this could be an article in itself, including factors such as the rising costs of living inside of a major city or the desire to have a larger home regardless of a long commute.
Regardless of your particular needs when home buying, considering your commute should rank at the top of your checklist.
Test out the drive
The very first thing you should do when you find a house you would really like to buy is put the address of your home and your office into a map for directions.
Before you hit “Go” change the time that you will be leaving (for example, 8:30 am and 5:00 pm). This part is particularly important because traffic is, of course, much busier at these times than, say, 2 am.
See how long the map calculates it’ll take you. Then, if possible, go ahead and test it out yourself. If you can’t go during the normal time you’d be driving to work, try to factor in the extra minutes traffic will add.
After you’ve successfully completed the commute, decide if it’s too much for you or not. Don’t forget to do this for both spouses if you are buying a house with your partner who has a job that isn’t located near yours.
Will you still have family and friend time?
If you have an exceptionally long commute, consider what you’re missing out on. Maybe buying a house farther from the city will help you afford that pool in your backyard that you’ve always wanted, but would your long drive make you too tired to do anything besides eating and sleeping when you finally arrive at home?
Of course, there’s always the weekends, though! Deciding on a commute is really a personal choice. You truly have to consider if the positive of living in the suburbs, closer to family, or whatever your reason, outweighs the negative of driving for a long time and being away from home more.
One thing that most people often don’t think about is their own emotions. After sitting in traffic for an hour (or more) one-way, will you arrive both at work and home in a terrible mood? Make sure to think it through before making this decision.
If you are someone who hates traffic so much you start to see red, ask your employer if they can offer flexibility when you arrive and leave to skip that hectic rush hour.
Does your family need room to grow?
If you have children and are planning on having more, a commute might not be the worst thing in your mind. Living in a nice neighborhood with a great school system could make those extra minutes of driving worth it.
Additionally, it’s typical that you can buy a bigger home in the suburbs for the same price as a smaller home in the city. This means that you have room for that extra bedroom if a little one is in your future plans.
If your family and job are changing a lot at this stage in your life, it is not a good idea to plan a home purchase around your job, either. Before taking time to consider the commute, make sure that you will be working at this job, or at least in the same area, for quite a while.
Do the costs balance out?
If you buy a less expensive home farther from your job, you will save money on your monthly mortgage payments, of course. But will those savings be worth it?
It’s important not to forget all the extra costs of a long commute. This includes gas, tolls, parking, extra hours of daycare (if necessary), and anything else that might be related to your commute.
In addition, don’t forget to consider the emotional cost that I noted above of extra hours away from home sitting in traffic. You might enjoy the alone time to catch up on your podcasts or listen to your favorite songs, but make sure to think about the psychological costs of a long commute before you make your decision.
Can you find a different route?
If your drive is littered with non-stop traffic, slow-driving tourists, or way too many stoplights, try to find a different route. Maps typically automatically route you to the shortest option, but the traffic could make this “short” route way too long.
Tell your map to find alternative routes and try them out to see if your travel time can be shortened. Also, consider going to a gym or grocery shopping nearby after work to avoid this rush hour. You will end up getting home a little later, but that time would have mostly been spent being productive rather than waiting in traffic.
How can you choose?
This personal decision is best made by determining exactly how long your commute will being during the time you need to go and leave work, understanding how much you will spend with the added driving time, then considering the emotional cost.
Determining if a long commute is acceptable is really up to you. Do you love the personal time when you can listen to your favorite audiobook in peace? Or would you prefer more time enjoying your brand new home and neighborhood?
Following these tips will help you make this important decision more simply.
Michele Karl is the Owner/Broker of Priority Real Estate. She can be reached at her email at [email protected] or give her a call at her office at 865-577-6600.